Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dance Me to the End of the Tour: Sons and Daughters in Toronto

This past Wednesday at Lee's Palace in Toronto I finally got to watch Glaswegian four-piece, Sons and Daughters, perform live. I became a fan in 2004 when I first heard their debut Love the Cup, however, I lost track of them over the last few years and missed the release of their second album The Repulsion Box. I became aware of them again last year as they began getting more and more attention for their latest album, the Bernard Butler-produced This Gift. When I finally took a listen to This Gift, I marvelled at the difference between it and Love the Cup, a much slower and folkier body of work. I can still reconcile the two by the thread of call and response vocals of Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson and the Celtic lilt of their garage rock, but I was curious about how the live show would go down. I was truly impressed by the energy and unadulterated joy they project on stage. Adele, looking like a cross between a disco diva and Wonder Woman in her blue eyeshadow, gold sequins, purple hotpants, and knee-high gold boots, stomped her feet and brandished her tambourine, leading the band through a breathless aural assault that had the energy of a punk show.

Notably, they played almost exclusively songs from their last two albums The Repulsion Box and This Gift, including opener Gilt Complex, Hunt, Dance Me In, Chains, Flags, Rebel With the Ghost, Taste the Last Girl, Iodine, Rama Lama, Goodbye Service, and The Nest. The only song from Love the Cup to make an appearance was Johnny Cash, and it was re-tooled into a faster piece from the version I remember, naturally to fit in with the newer sound. Their encore included a blistering performance of This Gift followed by the raucous House in My Head. Highlights included Chains, which shuffled along like a rockabilly song, propelled by Scott's "whoah-oh-oh"s, Dance Me In, which felt like a Celtic jig played on speed, and the absolute insanity of House in My Head, where I was certain my own head would be shaken loose. Adele spun around, whipped her microphone cord and flung herself toward the audience, careening like a pinball into all corners of the stage, and at one point, she stood in a playful salute posture. Scott, in his sparkly black shirt and quiff, played his guitar in true guitar hero fashion, his face contorting with passion as he crouched and lurched or ran to the edge of the stage for solos. Bassist, Ailidh Lennon, was more reserved in her black dress and boots as she hung back and kept the rhythm pulsing like a racing heartbeat (her reserve could have some connection to her being sick with flu) while drummer, David Gow, kept a crazy pace through the entire set, heavy on offbeats, forcing you to dance, clap your hands and swing your head. Scott and Adele's vocals are perfectly matched and blend in both sweet lilting and wild yelping. For a band who mentioned their love for Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen, this newer incarnation doesn't quite mesh with those influences anymore. Perhaps they never truly did. Oddly enough, seeing them live, I could now recognize The Smiths in some of the songs like two of my favourites, Darling and Iodine, and Taste the Last Girl - there was something Marresque about the guitar and melodies.

Adding to the overall charm of their show, Adele and Scott talked to the audience in between songs, revealing genuine down-to-earth personalities. Adele prefaced Dance Me In by telling the audience that it was an answer to Leonard Cohen's Dance Me to the End of Love and how excited she was that he was touring again, and she introduced Taste the Last Girl with mention of a rubbish ex-boyfriend. She also joked about how the night before they played a song so fast she almost had cardiac arrest (with the alacrity they played this particular night, I could definitely see how that could happen). With self-deprecating humour, Scott prefaced Rebel With the Ghost with the fact the song was quite easy because it was all "nah-nah-nahs." Close to the end of the show, both Scott and Adele talked about how happy they were to be heading home now because this was the last gig of the North America tour, leading into the catharsis and tour-end celebration of House in My Head. The band I loved in 2004 has changed, but they have convinced me to fall in love with them all over again in 2008.

Opening band, Bodies of Water, didn't disappoint and definitely deserve mentioning. Having listened to a few of their tracks in advance, I was excited to witness their sound live. For only four people, they create a choir of voices, filling the small venue with waves of beautiful sound. Their songs are long and meandering, switching time signatures several times before ending, but it never gets tedious; instead, you feel like you're accompanying them on a journey that no one has mapped out yet, but is bound to be filled with serendipity and wonder. Styles seamlessly moved from gospel to reggae to latin to operatic epic. Keyboardist and vocalist, Meredith Metcalf, hit spine-tingling heights in vocal range during It Moves - I will always remember that. They have that powerful organic feel of several people functioning as one like Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene, but they accomplish it with far less people. They deserved far more than the small crowd that hung back from the floor in front of the stage. Truly impressive.

Darling - Sons and Daughters

Chains - Sons and Daughters

It Moves - Bodies of Water


Ed said...

Have seen Sons and Daughters live eight times over the last five years in the UK and they do not disappoint.

Great blog, BTW, will be adding a link to you over at 17 Seconds


JC said...

Like Ed, I've seen S&D loads of times in recent years, but the new LP has left me a wee bit cold. But I'm delighted you had such a great night.

And reading about Lee's Palace brought a wee tear to my eye. I spent 4 months in Toronto (July-October 2007) and went to many many gigs at many many venues. Its a fantastic city for live music...

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